Tough New Ethics Seal To Be Tested Dec 22, 2010 7:13:15 GMT -5
Post by shira on Dec 22, 2010 7:13:15 GMT -5
Magen Tzedek Update:
"Tough New Ethics Seal Set To Be Tested in Kosher Marketplace", By Karen Loew. Published December 15, 2010, issue of December 24, 2010.
After more than a year of fine-tuning, the criteria for earning a Magen Tzedek, the "seal of justice" to be awarded to kosher food producers that meet a detailed set of ethical standards, are about to be tested by American food companies. The seal would be added to products that already merit a hekhsher, or symbol certifying that a food item is kosher, to show that the product not only meets Jewish dietary laws, but comports with Jewish moral values, as well.
Beginning in January, several producers of kosher food will attempt to follow guidelines for everyday business conduct in five principal categories: labor, animal welfare, consumer issues, corporate integrity and environmental impact. The draft standards for these guidelines fill 150 PowerPoint pages. The companies' efforts will be audited by Social Accountability Accreditation Services - an experienced social responsibility auditor based in New York City - with results to be announced in March.
Testing the standards represents the closest step yet to demonstrating "that Jewish ethical concerns that are based on who we are as a people are just as certifiable as Jewish ritual concerns," Rabbi Morris Allen, a Minnesota pulpit rabbi, told the Forward. Allen is the project director of the Conservative-backed Hekhsher Tzedek Commission, which was formed in early 2007 after revelations of poor labor conditions - on top of previous exposés of brutal animal treatment - at the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa, shocked some Jews into activism around the practice of kashrut.
"This is a serious religious undertaking to help restore a culture of kashrut in America. Kashrut itself suffered a black eye as a result of some of this," said Allen, who hastened to note that many kosher food producers have always behaved ethically. Covering everything from employee access to binding arbitration, the nutritional value of the food produced and recycling resources within a factory, the standards represent "the most exhaustive and comprehensive undertaking in the kosher food marketplace ever attempted," he added.
Allen said that the Hekhsher Tzedek Commission has signed agreements for testing with two companies and is closing in on a third. He would not name them, because the parties have signed confidentiality agreements that Allen said are aimed at promoting honest and robust testing of the standards. One of the companies is a kosher-specific producer, while the other two produce kosher food along with nonkosher products, he said. Allen called them "significant players in the food industry - and in the kosher food industry."